The First Chapter

I’ve started the novel. I don’t normally think about prose because I don’t normally read fiction (except for Roth, DeLillo  and Bolano) and poetry has always seemed more satisfying.  I’ve started the novel against my better judgement because the idea has stayed with me for some years and I can’t get rid of it. I can’t honestly say that it’s a bad idea  and walk away so I’m stuck on the third(ish) attempt to do something with it.

I’m very conscious that the first chapter is about dragging the reader in, about persuading him that it’s going to be worthwhile to read the rest so I do partial disclosure, I hint at problems to come, at something nasty lurking in the cupboard. I also try to keep myself interested on the grounds that if I’m bored then everyone else will be too.

So far I’m not bored but the language could use a little polish  and this is my current task. I’m not the greatest prose stylist but I know how to make good use of the occasional image without killing the piece. I also need to get better with dialogue. Much information is shared in the first chapter and I need to be able to use different speech patterns to reflect the different characters as they let some of the cat out of the bag.

It’s this re-working that I don’t enjoy, it feels cynical and manipulative but I’m trying to look at it as a necessary evil. I  keep telling myself that the idea is strong and valid but already I can feel  the glum self-doubt sttling in.

The point of this is to declare my unequivocal admiration for those writers of fiction who need to tell a story and are prepared to go through all kinds of hell to simply get it told. Even bad fiction writers still have the guts and bloody mindedness to see the thing through. Poets simply don’t have that kind of pressure.

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2 responses to “The First Chapter

  1. Some are made for sprinting others for the marathon (?) It would be remarkable to shine at both but would surely lead to many insights into oneself. I must admire your courage as have never had nerve to start a work of fiction …

  2. Thanks for taking time to comment Heather. With regard to the marathon, I find that writing a solid block of prose is having the effect of lengthening my poetry in that I’m more aware of the amount of things that I want to say in verse.
    I’m also thinking about the novel as a very very long poem mainly because it frees me up to play around with different forms and voices.

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